Review: Narvik @ HOME, Manchester

Over the past decade, Lizzie Nunnery has lived a double life as a folk musician and award-winning playwright.

And her ‘play with songs’, Narvik, currently being taken round the UK by Manchester-based theatre company Box of Tricks, draws on both of these talents to create a powerful patchwork of memory and fantasy.

The plot tells the story of a Liverpudlian man and a Norwegian woman who meet under the promise of the Second World War and the way their lives are irrevocably altered because of it.

It is inspired by Nunnery’s grandfather’s time in the Arctic convoys of the six-year battle, but the playwright emphasises that it is by no means a completely true story.

She tells MM: “There’s all these kind of degrees of truth and fiction and I think there’s something to be gained from both.

“It’s theatre, it doesn’t have to be naturalistic, it can be magical, weird and beautiful and I think if you embrace that an audience go with it.”

This dreamy feel to the play is assisted by the music seamlessly intertwined throughout.

Nunnery adds: “We always had the ambition to create a show that didn’t just have a scene and then a song.

“We don’t have characters turning to the audience singing… it’s not quite that relationship with the audience.”

Beyond music, sound as a whole is vital to creating the production’s magical feel.

The set, twisted from pipes and metal, means that the whole theatre is alive with a powerful percussive energy at all times – exactly as overwhelming as it needs to be to drive home the story.

In other hands six people plus a great metal structure on HOME’s studio stage may feel too much, but the versatile set was only cramped when it needed to be, believably representing both the bowels of a destroyer and the view over an expansive fjord.

The fragmented narrative isn’t always clear cut and favours the magical over realism at times, but the richness of the play isn’t drastically impacted by these little flights of fantasy.

Narvik will return to Greater Manchester with two shows at The Met in Bury between March 7-9. Tickets are available here.

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